(Eleven months ago, almost to the day, I posted this blog criticizing NBC for creating the television career of the Vulgarian Trump, and paying him more than $200 million for aggrandizing his piggish, demeaning, sexist ways on a national TV network. In the immediate aftermath of the revelations of the Trump Sex Abuse Tapes, done in conjunction with another NBC employee, Billy Bush, I am reposting my essay).
Tom Brokaw’s two and one-half minute noble tsk-tsking of Donald Trump’s full-blown Fascism—coming at the tail end of a little-watched Tuesday night 6 pm newscast—was far too little, way too late from the Broadcast network which made Trump an international TV star and helped launch his political career.
Now that Trump’s big, ugly Un-American backside has been bared for all to see, those wonderful folks who gave this monster a global platform to pedal his pernicious views, are beginning to have some second thoughts, but very few have anything to do with soul searching. NBC, for example did pay Donald Trump a total of $213, 606, 575 in salary to host 14 seasons of “The Apprentice”—an average of about $15 million per season, according to documents Trump’s campaign filed with the Federal Elections Commission. Then, after they handed Trump the bully’s pulpit to pick on everyone from the disabled, to Mexicans, to Syrian Refugees, to wounded war veterans, to Muslims, NBC—no longer seeing profit in Trump’s pugnaciousness—fired the Towering Inferno after he insulted all Mexicans in late June, 2015, during his announcement for President. NBC’s Latino market was just too big for the network to fail.
Financially, as well as cosmetically, NBC’s announcement to Dump Trump was good business. Following its’ first five years, “ The Apprentice” began to rapidly lose market share. NBC meanwhile, had become the NBC/Universal/Comcast monolith after 2009, rolling up big new profits in its cable, movie and amusement park businesses. Donald Trump, like Brian Williams, was expendable, especially since company chiefs Brian Roberts and Steve Burke are attached to their $30 million plus annual salaries. Trump no longer fit Comcast’s “do no fiscal harm policy”; the days of Trump and Mark Burnett’s United Artists Media Group raising revenue and NBC’s prime time ratings were over.
NBC and Burnett made Donald Trump—long viewed as another wannabe starlet in New York politics–richer, far more famous, and extraordinarily more powerful than he had ever been before. Trump’s small million dollar start up loan from his father, inheritance of the Trump real estate fortune built with federal funds for constructing middle-income housing, and even a New York Daily News front page headline boasting of the “Best Sex I’ve Ever Had” with Marla Maples, weren’t enough to get him the kind of attention he craved. He looked like a silly little post-card painter without serious recognition of his talent.
Then, along came Mark Burnett and NBC, and the inner Trump was let loose in the living rooms of millions of Americans through the mindlessness of Reality TV. Burnett, Trump’s co-producer on “Apprentice” and “Celebrity Apprentice”, and a prime mover in bringing Reality TV to American television with his “Survivor” in 2000, and other programming such as “The Voice,” “Shark Tank,” “ Sarah Palin’s Alaska (yes, that too) and, the aptly named “Are you smarter than a fifth-grader?” boasts a net worth estimated at somewhere between $385 million to $450 million—a fortune built on convincing Americans that eating bugs and spitting bile at people was entertainment. Trump spotted a winning formula for his brand of bragadaccio, and a malleable audience to swallow his hollow values and hateful views.
Forbes reported earlier this year that Trump’s entertainment-related income since 2004—the first, and most successful year of “The Apprentice”– was approximately $500 million, from his books, speeches, beauty pageants and Reality-TV employment, the bulk of which, came from NBC, and was made possible by his ten-year run on the NBC aired reality show–including nearly $100 million in product-placement fees Trump and “Apprentice” co-producer Burnett got from shaking down program sponsors like Pepsi and Crest.
NBC can roll out all of the Tom Brokaw mea culpa commentaries it wants; it can feign high-dudgeon by having Joe Scarborough cut off Trump after allowing the Quasimodo of Queens to rant on for four minutes. The network created this monster, and, with the willing leadership of programming ghouls like Mark Burnett, it disarmed the audience of any analytical ability to recognize that its collective brain was being snatched.